The Battle to be the Packers’ 6th Man on the Offensive Line

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Don Barclay
Will Don Barclay be the Packers sixth offensive lineman?

There has been a lot of news worth following on the Packers offensive line this offseason. Another storyline up front that should develop further once training camp heats up is who will “win” the sixth-man slot on the offensive line.

I put “win” in parentheses because, technically, if you’re the sixth man on the line, it means you failed to land a starting spot. In other words, you lost the battle you were actually trying to win.

Nobody goes into camp hoping to “win” a spot on the bench, but when it comes to the offensive line, the sixth man typically ends up getting at least a few starts and playing some type of meaningful role during the season. If you don’t start on the line, being the sixth-man is the spot you want to secure.

The leading candidates to be the Packers sixth man appear to be Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod and rookie David Bakhtiari.

Derek Sherrod
In an ideal world, I think the Packers would like to see Sherrod storm into camp fully recovered from his broken leg and show everyone why Ted Thompson spent a first-round draft pick on him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like Sherrod is on track to do that.

Ideally, the sixth-man on the line needs to be able to play multiple positions. Sherrod was drafted as a left tackle, but did compete at guard during training camp of his rookie season. Strength and nastiness appeared to be Sherrod’s weaknesses before he was injured.

Can he hold up inside against the big and physical interior lineman if asked to play guard? Is Sherrod physical enough to provide the run-blocking needed at right tackle, or anywhere else on the line?

Marshall Newhouse
Take everything I wrote about Sherrod about nastiness and apply it to Newhouse.

Newhouse has showed signs of being a decent pass-blocker, but the Packers are looking for more of a complete package. They need more consistency in pass blocking and more results in run blocking.

One possible scenario with Newhouse if he doesn’t win the starting right tackle job is this: The Packers would have two “sixth men” up front, Newhouse at tackle and a more physical run blocker-type player at guard.

Don Barclay
The undrafted rookie was a great story last season, but I’m not sure he’s starter material. Does that make him a good fit as the sixth man?

Pro Football Focus gave Barclay a -7.5 grade last season, -6.4 pass blocking and -0.8 run blocking. He’s physical enough to clear some lanes run blocking, but he’s on the small side.

I see Barclay as a decent backup, someone who can fill in here and there and not blow up the entire line. However, if he’s asked to start for an extended period of time, things could take a turn for the worse.

I suppose that fits the definition of a sixth man. If I thought he was a lights out player, I’d predict him to be the starter instead of including him in the discussion as sixth man.

David Bakhtiari
It looks like the rookie is in the mix to start at right tackle, which automatically puts him in the sixth-man race.

Bakhtiari played on a bad team in college and flew under the radar, but it sounds like he’s athletic enough to move around the line and had a good rookie camp.

Scouting reports questioned Bakhtiari’s athleticism and pegged him as a guard in the NFL, but at least for now, he’s being tried out at tackle.

Is Bakhtiari strong enough to play inside? That’s a question we seem to be asking about all of the sixth-man candidates besides Barclay.

Final Word
It’s way too early to say anything for sure, but “I have no idea” is a boring answer.

My gut tells me that Newhouse will win the right tackle job and Barclay will be the sixth man. The seventh lineman to dress on Sundays will be Bakhtiari, leaving Sherrod’s future in doubt.

I would not be shocked at all if Barclay and Bakhtiari end up starting at least one game apiece in 2013. I also wouldn’t be shocked at all if everything I’ve written in this post is obsolete come the first day of training camp.

Another thing that just popped in my mind: Where does Andrew Datko fit into this discussion? How about Greg Van Roten or Lane Taylor?

The offensive line will be an interesting storyline to follow and a lot of the story is unknown at the moment.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • Savage57

    Last year there was a lot of bandwidth allocated to the idea that if Datko was able to get past his shoulder issues, he could be a real steal because he was supposedly a beast before he got injured.

    Now, crickets.

    Anybody heard anything at all about Datko or has this guy turned into the Packers ‘missing man’?

    As to the 6th man? I’ll go with Barclay.

    • Chad Toporski

      I think we have to wait until training camp before we start hearing more about certain players like Datko. It’s not really until then that beat writers and the general public actually get to see them perform in drills and other work.

    • FireMMNow

      I heard somewhere that Datko was getting reps at guard. Which is just so strange to me. Datko is an athletic left tackle or he is nothing. Once again Campen blows my mind with his constant shuffling of players.

      • Stroh

        Probably heard in on blog, not from an actual reporter or team/staff member.

        As for Datko his is an ordinary NFL athlete. Newhouse is quite a bit more athletic than he is. Datko was good in college and he might be in the NFL by being a good technician w/ a try hard attitude. I would say looking at him at OG makes some sense, IF indeed its true they are looking at him at OG. IMO Datko is probably better at RT than he is at LT in the NFL.

        At this point, I would say that it pretty obvious that McCarthy is the one behind all the juggling on the OL. Look at the past 2 years. Campen had things pretty settled. The OC actually said that McCarthy is the one behind all the changes on the OL. But go ahead and blame Campen if you need to, if that’s what you need to make yourself feel better.

        • FireMMNow

          oh stroh, sometimes you just sound like you are trying to be antagonistic.

          what difference does it make who said datko was getting reps at guard? if he was getting reps at Guard anyone with decent eyesight should be able to report it. Datko has fantastic feet. Most draft people said he had first or second round talent at LT but his shoulder was so bad people passed on him. His feet are great and have never been a problem. His lower half is not built like a guard at all.

          if MM is the one behind the changes then he is not showing any faith in Campen’s abilities. If the OL was performing well under Campen’s tutelage MM would probably leave it alone.

          • Stroh

            Your the one who brought it up. I haven’t heard anyone outside a blog mention Datko at OG, not that it means much. He has average at best athleticism for an OT. Fantastic feet? Not really, everything says he’s a try hard guy w/ ordinary athleticism. Given average athleticism I would say giving him a look at OG makes some sense, but I still think he is an OT, and more likely at RT in the NFL.

            The only thing missing from the OL was a great LT, like most great OL have. Sherrod was drafted to be the fixture at LT for a decade. If he is playing even decently at LT instead of being injured, the OL wouldn’t be changed.

            I think your misremembering!

            http://www.nfl.com/draft/2011/profiles/andrew-datko?id=2532827

            “In pass protection he can struggle at times but usually blocks long enough to get the job done. He makes up for his average athletic ability by being technically sound and understanding how to use his hands.”

            I cant help it you seemingly make things up.

            • FireMMNow

              well here is another draft profile on him, i guess it depends on where you look:

              Positives:
              Quick out of his stance. Has good feet to shuffle, slide and push rushers wide. Technically sound. Keeps his hands inside and can pop and recoil. Understands angles and positioning. Flexible hips to scoop, latch on and seal. Shows outstanding scheme recognition and is intelligent and aware to pick up stunts and blitzes. Is tough and plays through pain. Started as an undersized freshman. Terrific character — motivated, hardworking and coachable.

              Negatives:
              Lacks ideal bulk and functional strength — is a narrow-framed, converted tight end and still looks it. Average arm length. Limited power in his body. Gets outmuscled at the point of attack. Is not stout in his lower body to anchor vs. the bull rush (too easily walked back). Plays with a crouched posture and bends at the waist. Lunges and slips off some blocks. Inconsistent second-level fits. Durability is a major concern — has a history of shoulder issues dating back to high school, including a surgery that ended his senior season prematurely. Has not cleared medical evaluations for some NFL teams.

            • Stroh

              Good feet is not nearly the same as Terrific feet is it? Technically sound is familiar, so is the hand usage. Most of that sounds pretty similar. Tough, smart, technically sound. Except it doesn’t specifically say he has ordinary athleticism, it just kinda dances around it w/o being critical.

          • Stroh

            What difference does it make who brought it up? Well I would say bloggers speculate far more and whereas reporters generally report on what they see then figure out what it means. Bloggers don’t have the daily access to players/staff like the media. That about cover it?

            • FireMMNow

              the statment was: he was taking reps at guard in practice.

              i would not depend on a blog to have inside information in contract negotiations, but my mother who often calls football softball, could tell me if datko lined up at guard in practice.

              • Stroh

                The question is “Who made the statement? Was it a reporter in GB that was observing practice or was it a blogger at home reading another blog that he read on another blog. Unless you can trace the source to a reporter in GB then it means little to nothing. At some point a blogger/commenter might read that the Packers considered giving Datko a look, w/o it saying that they did look at him at OG. The blogger/commenter can easily misinterpret or make an inference that isn’t true. I don’t know for sure, but how many of the writers on this blog are actually in GB and were watching practice? Al is in Jersey, they are probably scattered all over the country. Even if they are in the state it means they are getting 2nd hand info at best, which opens everything up to interpretation.

  • ThomasMagnumPI

    Nice take on this murky situation Adam.

    In the following quote, did you mean that you think Sherrod will will the starting RT job, or that Newhouse will win out?

    “My gut tells me that Newhouse will win the right tackle job and Barclay will be the sixth man. The seventh lineman to dress on Sundays will be Bakhtiari, leaving Newhouse’s future in doubt.”

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Sorry, that should have read, “…leaving Sherrod’s future in doubt.” It’s been corrected – thanks for pointing it out…

      • ThomasMagnumPI

        A bit unsettling about this take on Sherrod’s recovery . . .

        Thanks for the clarification though.

    • Dobber

      Tretter’s injury is disappointing. I would like to see how he measures up in a competition like this. On the other hand, it doesn’t force the Packers to make as many decisions on roster spots, and Tretter has a year to learn and get stronger.

      If Sherrod is physically not up to competing, yet, then does he go PUP–>IR? Might hide him for a year and give him an outside shot at shedding the “bust” label in 2014.

  • redlights

    With a decent contract, either Newhouse starts or doesn’t make the roster. I’d love to see Datko as RT. I forget the rules but Sherrod to PUP or retrievable IR might happen too; too much is invested in him to give up unless he really bombs.

    • Dobber

      We posted at about the same time on PUP/IR. I don’t think they would use their retrievable IR spot on a guy if they don’t know how he’ll fit in or contribute. I’d rather they saved it for a starter or key role player.

      • redlights

        I see your point, but for a potential starting LT? MM knows where he will fit IMO; question is: is that where DS fits?

  • Dave

    Don’t count Datko out just yet. He’s a big, nasty dude. He dominated before getting injured in college. If his shoulder is fine, he’d bring the attitude that the o line needs.

  • Batavia Greg

    The OL’s problems have been a recurring issue for discussion for several years now. TT has not been able to solve those problems through the draft, where his picks in recent years have been either undersized and/or fragile and prone to injury. He is reluctant to turn to free agency for reinforcements.

    My hunch is that undrafted free agent, Lane Taylor, will make the active roster as an interior guard. He seems durable with 47 career starts at Oklahoma State, didn’t allow a sack in 2012, and, at 6′-3″ 328 lbs. certainly isn’t undersized. He works hard and has a nasty streak — endearing traits for an offensive lineman.

    • Stroh

      Sherrod didn’t miss a start in 3 yrs at Miss St. So its kinda hard to say he is injury prone. The other OL position were pretty settled w/ Lang, EDS, Sitton, Bulaga. Just shows the importance of a LT. Get that one position settled and it changes the dynamic of the entire OL. If Sherrod doesn’t have that gruesome broken leg the OL is probably a strong suit right now, instead of being completely up in the air.

      • Batavia Greg

        I see that Sherrod was one of those who was unable to practice today. I don’t expect much, if anything, from him this year.

        If LT is so important and Sherrod’s injury “so gruesome,” why didn’t TT draft a top-notch LT, like Terron Armstead, in the second round of this year’s draft? I know, we needed a RB with a fused big toe. Aaron Rodgers’ loss is Drew Brees’s gain.

  • Mojo

    As of today, I would lean towards what Adam’s gut is telling him and say Newhouse would be the favorite to start at RT and Barclay and Bakh as the first off the bench. I believe I remember reading somewhere last year that only once in the last 20 years has the starting o-line group played the entire season due to injury. So it’s almost guaranteed the backup(s) will play significant minutes before the year is out.

    As far as Sherrod, I’m wondering if he’ll ever make a meaningful contribution in the future. Something is messed up there with his leg and I wonder if it will ever be good enough again. All the Area 51 type secrecy certainly doesn’t fuel any optimism. Too bad because he and Datko have natural tackle size.

    Speaking of Datko, wouldn’t it be sweet if he came out of nowhere and fulfilled all the promise he showed as a collegian? I’m hoping they give him a fair chance to see what he’s got.

  • Stroh

    I don’t see a 6th man per se. More likely there is a backup interior OL and a backup OT for the 7 man game day roster. Beyond that there’ll probably be 8 or 9 OL on the roster and a couple on the PS.

    Hopefully Sherrod is healthy for training camp and can compete for an OT spot. I don’t know if he would be ready to be a starter to open the season, but as the season progresses he should have every opportunity to possibly move into a starting spot.

    Still think the best OL going forward would be…

    Sherrod, Lang/Barclay, EDS, Sitton, Bulaga. From LT to RT.

  • FireMMNow

    I think Barclay wins the RT spot. MM wants to run the ball this year. I think he is making it the biggest emphasis for his offense this offseason. Newhouse will never be a great run blocker. I think Barclay has that ability and the running game really took a big jump forward when he entered the lineup last year. He will have the entire offseason to get ready and work on pass pro technique.

    I think he will be the starting RT for the next 5 years.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      I hope you’re right.

      He, along with Harris, sure did provide a spark for the running game down the stretch. I just hope that he can improve his pass pro enough so that protection does not have to be slid to his side on every play.

  • packerbacker

    Newhouse will start at RT or be 6th man he is the only guy on roster to start an NFL game at LT. Who else backs up LT? I would not trust anyone else on the roster. BB has missed games very year. We won 26 regular season games with Newhouse at LT the last two years. Be silly not to have available if not starting.

  • Ron LC

    10 to 15 more pounds, keep working on the upper body strength and Barclay is my choice.

    I still worry about Bulaga’s mobility at LT though.

    • ThomasMagnumPI

      Maybe I’m ignorant, but I don’t see that vast of a difference between RT and LT in today’s game. Most good teams have two legitimate pass rushers, and no longer does the TE line up on the right side on every play to help chip rushers and give the RT help.

      Obviously, there must be differences, else there is little reason to shake up the line, just for grins.

      • Adam Czech

        When you have an elite QB, a left tackle isn’t as important as it used to be. A good quarterback can cover up for a less-than-stellar LT.

        That said, I think most coaches would prefer having their better tackle on the QB’s blind side. Why not, I guess?

  • aaronqb

    The way I see it, there are three OL battles:

    – starting RT
    – 53 man roster (probably 9 OL make it)
    – game day actives (usually 7 per game)

    I’m not sure what 6th man means. If an OL gets injured during a game, one of the two actives on the bench would go in based on position.

    Careful to get too serious about who will end up where. We are still in the underwear portion of the season

  • redlights

    I can’t help but think that EDS in place of Saturday will change the dynamics and effectiveness of the OLine.

    Why does it seem like MM takes too long to try Plan B when Plan A isn’t working? EDS in for Saturday; Barclay in for Bulaga (move BB and bench Newhouse); even Bishop a few years ago? Stubborness? What would a DJ Williams do if given better chances? It doesn’t appear that they’re afforded it. Doghouse?

  • Mike Sherman

    Whoever wins the RT job needs to be a road grader. Someone with a mean streak that will create holes for our running game. A classic RT, borderline nasty. Someone like Bulaga. Too bad nobody on the roster matches that description. As much as loved Clifton and Tausher, they were soft pass blockers and I always hoped their replacements would be physical. Love Bulaga but Sherrod is not a RT and it hurts that his career has likely come down to this. Sherrod is a pass blocker, and we should all pray he can pull a Mike Flanigan and come back as a Pro Bowler.